The international community has recognised that women’s participation is vital to achieving and sustaining peace. UN WOMEN argue that women are proven agents of change and should therefore be supported to do even more. Enhancing women’s engagement for sustainable peace requires an integrated approach that simultaneously addresses conflict prevention, resolution and recovery (UN WOMEN Peace and Security Report, 2016). Furthermore, women and children are often the most severely affected by conflict, with displacement, sexual violence and physical abuse being directed towards women and children during war time.
The NEPAD Spanish Fund for African Women Empowerment have supported few initiatives to strengthen a culture of peace and non-violence to benefit women and children in Africa and emphasised the role of women in developing a culture of peace on the continent. These interventions included campaigns to prevent and reduce intra and inter community conflict and create spaces for women to meaningfully participate in peace building and reconciliation activities within their communities.
Projects that promoted this process include that of the African League for Active Non-Violence which promoted actions to strengthen a culture of peace and non-violence to benefit women and children in Burundi and emphasised the role of women in developing a culture of peace in the world. In Kenya, the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness participated in peace building processes to ensure that women play a meaningful role as community peace facilitators. These peace building projects contribute towards building inclusive societies for sustainable development and are clearly aligned to Aspiration 4 of the African Union Agenda 2063, which envisions a peaceful and secure Africa.
Key lessons learned from projects:
- Mobilise women before elections to prevent post-election violence
- Organise women groups to assist with the reintegration of communities dispersed by civil strife
- Improve communication initiatives to promote and support peace initiatives
- Implement dialogue forums to involve communities in peace initiatives
Mobilise women before elections to prevent post-election violence
Violence often occurs due to tightly contested elections, particularly where voting is ethnically aligned. This was the case in Kenya, and the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) actively participated in post-election peace building processes. Women played a significant and meaningful role as community peace facilitators during these interventions. The important lesson learned during these initiatives was that it is important to mobilise women as peace-building mediators before elections take place rather than intercede to prevent post-election violence.
Organise women groups to assist with the reintegration of communities dispersed by civil strife
The commune Ruhororo is one of the communes in Burundi that was most affected by the civil war and this resulted in great dispersion of the population. The African League for Active Non-Violence convened the Twubakerugume group to provide a forum for repatriated, demobilised and internally displaced widowed women to meet twice a week to do rural work. This group very effectively assisted with the reintegration of dispersed families into their communities.
Improve communication initiatives to promote and support peace initiatives
It was observed by projects teams in Kenya and Burundi that communication initiatives should be improved to ensure that communities are effectively informed of peace building activities. Such interventions play an important role to ensure the success of peace initiatives. There is particularly a need for more information education and communication materials (IECs) to promote peace building activities and disseminate information on such activities within communities. In Kenya, IEC materials such as key rings, T-shirts, banners, book kits etc., were effectively used to promote reconciliation and ensure peaceful co-existence.
Implement dialogue forums to involve communities in peace initiatives
In Kenya, the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) observed a need for more dialogue forums to broker peace initiatives within communities. They, however, had limited outreach capacity and therefore engaged with the national government and processes such as the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission to participate in their initiatives. An important lesson learned was that by engaging with dialogue forums such as post conflict Truth and Reconciliation Commissions will help to ensure sustainable peace.